“History will be a harsh judge of our leaders for their active neglect” - Poignant words of best friend of contaminated blood campaigner
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
A poignant celebration into the life of a contaminated blood campaigner has heard how 'devastated' she was that government promises to properly compensate those infected did not materialise before her death.
Annie Walker died aged 62 from cancer brought on by the hepatitis C (hep C) she contracted after being given contaminated blood by the NHS during a blood transfusion aged 19.
She is one of several thousands who have subsequently died in what is one of the worst scandals in modern-day history.
Throughout most of her adult life the mother-of-one, who lived in Mousehold House, near Mousehold Heath, campaigned on behalf of others in the same situation, founding an advice and support website and a Norwich hep C support group.
Yesterday, those gathered at Earlham Crematorium for the service to honour her, heard of her sadness that, in spite of an apology from David Cameron over the scandal and a pledge to pump millions into a better compensation scheme, the latest proposals meant many would in fact end up worse off than before.
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Her close friend of more than two decades, Liam Dolan, an Oxford University professor, said: 'Annie lived in hope that those who got hep C through contaminated blood would have their suffering recognised and in some small way compensated.
'While those infected with contaminated blood have had an apology they have not yet had justice. In fact, the proposed cuts to some of their token care payments in the latest consultation would call into question the sincerity of the apology.
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'For me, the disappointment on Annie's face when it became clear that justice would not follow the apology, in her lifetime, is one of the great sadnesses in my life. She was devastated - and this in the last few months of her life.
'History will be a harsh judge of our leaders for their active neglect and marginalisation of the contaminated blood victims.'
Upon being diagnosed with the condition, Ms Walker, who worked as a PA for the Transport and General Workers and Unite unions and as a researcher for the Norwich Labour group, was mortified that it took three months after diagnosis for an appointment to learn what that actually meant.
She soon discovered there was a lack of knowledge about the condition and set up a website, before launching the Norwich Hepatitis C Support Group, to fight not just for proper compensation, but immediate access to the best medication available.
Mr Dolan said: 'She didn't want others to go through the agony of not knowing, which was what she was going through. It was not long before she was receiving emails and phone calls from all over the UK, Europe and one person even came to visit her from Lithuania.
'Annie is the living testament for how the actions of one individual or a small number of individuals can make a difference to many.'
In recent years Ms Walker's case has been highlighted by Norwich North MP Chloe Smith in the House of Commons.
Although the Department of Health is currently consulting over its proposals, prior to her death Ms Walker had been critical of repeated delays fearing 'they were waiting for her and others to die'.
Having suffered ill health through much of her adult life, she passed away in March after the subsequent cirrhosis of her liver caused by hep C led to cancer.
Paying tribute to Ms Walker, who is survived by her son Ben, Mr Dolan added: 'She was the funniest and most loving person I have ever known. While it is inevitable that we will be sad today, she was clear that she was ready to go. She had done all she could. Annie was not afraid and funny to the end.'
The ceremony included the Billy Bragg song The Internationale and You'll Never Walk Alone, sung by Elvis Presley.
A recent House of Commons debate on the scandal, which began in the 1970s and 80s when the NHS was failing to carry out proper safety checks on blood and blood products, heard of the concerns the £125m pledged by the government would cause many sufferers and their families to be financially worse off than they currently are.
This paper has campaigned on behalf of sufferers, many of who are from the county.